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Indigenous Medicine Center
Rua Bernardo Ramos, 97 – Downtown

The Bahserikowi - Indigenous Medicine Centre offers Manaus residents traditional healing and protection treatments provided by shamans from the Desana, Tuyuka and Tukano ethnic groups. It was dreamt up and idealised by indigenous anthropologist João Paulo Lima Barreto and is the result of a long struggle for respect for traditional indigenous medicines – which, unfortunately, are losing strength in the forest due to influences from the Indigenous Health Secretariat (Sesai) and religious missions.

In the Western world, they are still seen only as spiritual practices and, because of this, are not part of the PICS – Práticas Integrativas e Complementares (Integrative and Complementary Practices), which are regulated and offered free of charge to the population by the Brazilian's Unified Health System (SUS). João Paulo's dream is that the knowledge of the kumuã, indigenous elders who apply the so-called bahsese (therapeutic spoken formulas), will be incorporated into public health policies.

João Paulo believes it is essential that the shamans also carry out their activities in indigenous health units, especially with patients who stay at the Indigenous Health Centre (Casai) in Manaus while awaiting treatment in hospital.

According to him, there are two ancient health care practices: bahsese (therapeutic spoken formulas) and the use of medicinal plants.

Bahsese is a type of blessing from the Upper Rio Negro, which evokes the presence of forest beings who hold all the knowledge about humanity. Bahsese are sets of therapeutic spoken formulas used by indigenous specialists to cure illnesses. In other words, it is the power and ability of specialists (shamans) to invoke the healing substances of plants, minerals and animals and put into action the sensitive qualities that produce the effect of calming and curing the illness (bitterness, sweetness, acidity, coldness). It's a "metachemical" manipulation that produces medicine.

Medicinal Plants – indigenous peoples have been using herbs and medicinal plants for as long as they can remember, having full mastery of their curative applications for various types of illness. There are herbs and plants for the prevention and treatment of illnesses, to seduce the person you desire, among others. The forest holds all kinds of remedies.

The great and long-held dream is for Bahserikowi to be a "school" or centre for advanced studies in indigenous knowledge and practices. In this way, Bahserikowi is not just limited to health consultations and treatments, but is also a space for dialogue with other types of knowledge and cultural exchange; a home for indigenous knowledge workshops with indigenous and non-indigenous young people; a home for traditional festivals, for training future new kumuãs, so that this ancestral knowledge is strengthened in the various villages.

João Paulo Lima Barreto was born in the São Domingos community, in Upper Rio Negro, Amazonas state, northern Brazil. He is an indigenous activist from the Ye'pamahsã (Tukano) people, anthropologist and professor at the Federal University of Amazonas (Ufam). He was the first indigenous person to defend his doctorate in Anthropology at Ufam. He has worked in primary and higher education and in indigenous organisations in Amazonas. He was the creator and co-founder of the Indigenous Medicine Centre of the Amazon, a clinic created in 2017 specifically to serve the people.

Manoel Lima is kumu/baya. He belongs to the Tuyuca Ʉtãpiropona ethnic group. Born in the Porto Colômbia community, on the Tiquié River, in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, he was trained as a kumu/baya at the age of 14. Since the age of 15, he has been working as a kumu. He says that he started out serving the indigenous population of the Upper Rio Tiquié and, for the last 30 years, he has been serving the population of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, on the Upper Rio Negro. He talks enthusiastically about his life journey, especially his training as a specialist and the practice of his craft in the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, where he currently lives.

Kumu Ovídio Lemos Barreto is the father of João Paulo Lima Barreto, from the Yepamahsã ethnic group. He was born in São Domingos community, on the Upper Tiquié River, in the Upper Rio Negro region, municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM). He says he specialised at the age of 19 and, from the age of 20, began working as a kumu. He began serving the public in his community under the supervision of his father, who specialised in the yai category. After his father's death, he took his place and began to serve the public outside his community. He is recognised for his craft and for being the heir of a prestigious yai. More recently, he has started catering for indigenous and non-indigenous audiences in Manaus. He is a collaborating member of the research team at Núcleo de Estudo da Amazônia Indígena (Neai) and took part in the experiment called Antropomed (Anthropology x Medicine), an initiative to jointly treat a Yanomami patient at the Hospital de Medicina Tropical in Manaus. He was the main kumu who attended to the case of Luciane Barreto, the victim of a snake bite. The doctors in Manaus wanted to amputate Luciane's leg, despite resistance from her indigenous relatives. The case gained national prominence after a successful pioneering proposal for joint treatment between biomedicine and indigenous medicine.

Kumu José Maria Lima Barreto is João Paulo Lima Barreto's brother. He is a kumu and is also active in Bahserikowi. He was born in the São Domingos community in Upper Rio Tiquié, Upper Rio Negro, in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM). He is the youngest of all the kumuã who work at the Indigenous Medicine Centre. He graduated as a specialist at the age of 30 and has been working as a kumu since he was 31. He is the second son of the kumu Ovídio Barreto. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, without even undergoing classical training, he learnt kihti ukũse and bahsese.

Along with the three kumuã from the Yepamahsã (Tukano) and Ʉtãpirõporã (Tuyuca) ethnic groups, the Bahserikowi team is joined by the Desana kumu Durvalino Fernandes, from the Ʉmukorimahsã ethnic group. He comes from the same region as the previous three, more specifically from the district of Pari-Cachoeira, Tiquié River, on the Upper Uaupés River. He is the son of the respected kumu Américo Fernandes, who died in 20XX. He specialised as a kumu at the age of 25, under the guidance of his father. He says that, at first, he worked with the people of his region under his father's supervision. After a long experience with him, he began to work as a kumu independently. Following his father's career, Dudu – as Durvalino is known – specialised in these areas and became a reference among his peers. He is the author of the book A mitologia sagrada dos Desana-Wari Dihputiro Porã, from the Collection of Indigenous Narrators of the Rio Negro, volume 2. He is also a river driver for the São Gabriel da Cachoeira Diocese.

To find out more visit:

@centrodemedicinaindigena                /bahserikowi